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4 Ways to Get Your Family to Support Your Writing Career

Monday, June 20, 2011

“Are you writing again?” or “Why do you have to spend so much time writing?”

Have you ever heard questions like that from your family or loved ones?

I have.

They’re the kind of questions that make you duck your head in guilt. The kind of questions that cause you to wonder if you’re really doing the right thing in pursuing a writing career.

After all, my family comes first. My relationships are more important than success. I want to cherish the time I have with my children. My oldest starts high school in the fall, and I’m realizing the time passes in seconds from when we bring them home from the hospital to when they pull out of the driveway to start lives of their own.

Even so, my writing is an important part of my life too.

So the question becomes, how do we juggle our families and our writing? How do we make sure we don’t neglect one for the other?

Over time, I’ve realized that one of the most helpful aspects to successfully juggling family and writing is to enlist my family’s support. When they get behind me and realize the importance of what I’m doing, I’ve found that the quantity and quality of my writing time has improved. It isn’t perfect! In fact, it’s far from it!

But . . . family support can go a long way in helping us juggle our writing and everything else.

Here are 4 things I’ve learned about gaining our families’ support for our writing:

1. Help family understand the importance of our writing early in our careers.

Prepublication writing often brings the most guilt. We usually tell ourselves something like this, “How can I justify taking time away from my family for my writing when I’m not making any money yet?” or “I’ll get more serious when I get an agent or a book contract.” And sure, there’s something about making money or landing an agent/book deal that validates the hours we spend on our books. But is that really what should legitimize our writing?

If something is important to us and brings us happiness, shouldn’t that be enough of a reason for our families to respect what we do? After all, we respect the things they’re passionate about. We give them the freedom to pursue their dreams.

Why should we expect any less for ourselves and our writing—no matter where we’re at in our journeys—published or not?

If we start early in our careers helping our families understand how important writing is to us—the fulfillment and joy it brings—then writing becomes more than just getting a paycheck or book contract. Our families can learn support us no matter the outcome.

2. Teach family to respect our work time.

If we want our family to respect our time, first we have to set the example. We need to schedule in writing time, then stick to it and work diligently. When we show them we take our writing time seriously, then they’ll begin to model us.

We can’t let other activities crowd out scheduled work time or get to it only if nothing else is on the calendar. If we treat it like a hobby and drop it for our other interests, then our families will expect us to drop our writing for their activities. But if we stick to our writing time religiously, they’ll begin to see it as a natural part our lives.

3. Plan family time too.

If we make a priority to schedule writing time, then why not schedule family time too? If we know that we’re going to have specific time to focus on our children or spouses at some point in the day, then we can approach our writing time without guilt.

Our families will have an easier time letting us work because they’ll be able to anticipate spending time with us. They’ll know they’re still important and that we don’t work “all” the time.

4. Make writing accomplishments a family affair.

I make a point of keeping my family informed of my writing plans. When I’m in first draft mode, they know I’m working on a daily word count goal. Frequently someone will ask, “Did you make your word count today, Mom?”

When I’m in editing mode, they’ll ask, “Did you get your two chapters done yet?” Whenever I complete a book or rewrites or something (big or small!), I try to make it a celebration that involves my family.

The more informed and involved my family is in my writing career the more they can understand and appreciate what I’m doing.

My Summary: With time and effort I’ve seen my family gradually come to accept and support my writing. In fact, our families can become our biggest cheerleaders on this road to publication and beyond.

How about you? How supportive is your family of your writing? What are things you’ve done to gain more of their support?

46 comments:

  1. My husband is incredibly supportive. He respects my writing time. He's struggled a bit with the whole blogging/social media thing but ever since I read Kristen's book and explained to him that blogging and social media is part of the writer's life, he's stopped hassling me about Twitter. :)

    My son is only 2 and a half. This is all very normal to him. Having a mommy who writes.

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  2. Great post. We all juggle, don't we?
    I homeschool, so my kids are around all the time. I wouldn't have it any other way, my choice, and it works for us.
    My family is incredibly supportive, they understand my madness, even when I cry along with my characters. My daughter, 11, is following in my footsteps. Exciting!
    A question of balance as always.
    Elle

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  3. My wife is amazing. She'll tell me off for feeling guilty about going to write. I'm glad that I sold my first book before our baby was born, so I can hopefully raise him/her to understand that it's a job like any other.

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  4. Like you, I get my family excited about what could happen some day and about the small accomplishments along the way. Mostly, my family is extrememly supportive.

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  5. My family is pretty supportive. I can't complain. But I've never backed out of an outing b/c I have to write. It's them respecting the writing schedule during the day - esp. summer!

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  6. Hi everyone!! Hope you're all having a good summer!

    Paul, I keep waiting for news of your baby! I hope you'll keep us all posted!

    Laura, Summers ARE hard on the writing schedule. With vacations, summer activities, the kids running in and out of the house. My writing during the day is often very chaotic!

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  7. I will, I promise! My wife is suffering badly with sciatica and pelvic pain at the moment, but the baby's growing away. And kicking the daylights out of her.

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  8. When I was a younger writer, I wrote at the dining room table which we never used and the kids knew when I had in big orange ear plugs that mom was creating. It cut down on me nagging them to be quiet and kept out some of the noise. I could still keep an eye on them and work at my hearts content. But I think any writing mother faces some guilt.
    Now that I'm a grand mom and have more time I'm faced with other challenges that keep me from writing. Health issues with my hubby. That comes first. I still eek out an hr or two a day to do some creative writing. I do essays which I love, some poetry and the novel writing will be held off until winter when things may have settled down some. We'll see. We make adjustments at every phase in our lives.
    You have given us all some good tips for keeping things in perfect perspective, Jody. Thanks! Blessings. Barb

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  9. My two year old loves my writing time because he gets to watch his portable DVD player which he calls his 'puter,' just like Mummy's.

    My husband loves it because every hour of uninterrupted writing time = one hour of golf for him. A good deal all round.

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  10. Jody, I am very lucky my husband is supportive. He'll take our son out for the day some weekends so I can have "alone" time to write. What's so funny is that he doesnt enjoy reading (somewhat dylsexic) so he has never read what I have written, but he believes in me. I consider myself lucky! Thanks for the tips here with children. Its hard for my son to understand at times, so these tips help. But now that I am writing a MG for him, he nags me for new chapters daily :)

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  11. My kids crack me up when they talk about an agent I don't even have yet.

    I can't express how important your #3 is. If you are pouring into them enough, they won't gripe so much when they see you pouring into something you love.

    And I know it never feels like enough (on both counts) but prioritizing in this industry is a must.

    ~ Wendy

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  12. Celebrating with family is the best. I remember sitting my parents down and, quite literally, showing them all of the different writing projects I had going, and what I was hoping to accomplish. It was eye opening for them and our relationship blossomed. We became so much more supportive of each other and our time commitments. Communication is definitely key. And now, we celebrate together when I finish a writing project! :)

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  13. I'm very lucky with my children - they are behind me 110%. And because we all hang out together so much, they're well used to me walking up to one of them on their laptop, handing them a set a earbuds and grinning, aka mom is writing/editing/proofing and needs quiet. And they're always on board to do whatever they can do to help.

    But the other prevailing attitude seems to be a bit more based on actual earnings, and I see this from a few people. Until I actually earn money from it, it's not going to be a truly worthwhile endeavor. Well, it's worthwhile to me, even if I don't earn a penny, so onwards I go. And hopefully, someday, I'll sell the ms and that complaint will go the way of the dodo.

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  14. Can I just tell you how refreshing it is to see that other writers put family first. It feels like most of the world wants us to sacrifice family for what we want to do.

    Those are great tips. I think are families are just waiting to cheer us on if we will include them.

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  15. Great post! I struggle with the guilt thing, since I'm so early in my career. Recently, I've opted to stay home a few times from small outings, or stay up late at night, to have alone time to write, and I worry that I'm being too self-indulgent. I really appreciate your #1, making writing important early on. I think especially as women we tend to think doing something for ourselves is selfish, even more so if it's not bringing in money. I think this is a great post to refer to when I start questioning myself.

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  16. Hi again, everyone! I'm appreciating getting to hear what works for your families!

    Deri, I agree. As women, we so often sacrifice our passions for our families. But I think it's possible to love and raise our families AND pursue the things we love too.

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  17. This is a great post! I'm lucky to have such a supportive husband but it is still a balance thing. As long as I make sure to schedule time with him, things in my house are good to go! It can be hard sometimes because we writers can easily get so involved in our work that we almost forget about everyone else!

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  18. My family is very much a part of my writing. I enlist the help of my kids (five of them)for research and feedback. They want to be involved and come up with their own stories while I'm writing. I even have a main character in one book that my 2 yr. old named! My wife, always, is my biggest cheerleader. I would have stopped this journey long ago without her encouragment. Great post.

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  19. My boys are my greatest cheerleaders. And proud? It's so cool.

    One set up my Facebook account, one helps with my computer needs, another is the go-to guy for video, and one is always recommending my book. They're my PR team!

    An awesome post for moms!

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  20. Just last week, I put on my todo list, "Find articles regarding the juggling act between home, family and writing" and today it shows up in my email box! Isn't God good to us. Thanks for the encouragement and perspective.

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  21. Thanks for this - good timing for me to read. I'm going through a change in the way I have to look at it in that in the past, I've been very selfish in my writing time, blocking out ridiculous chunks of time in NaNoWRiMo to do my writing. So in the interest of making it a two-way street, I have to be respectful of family time, too. We're changing at my house - I can keep writing, so long as I am respectful of family time and I will probably avoid the NaNo-selfishness that I've been abusing for a few years... The pre-pub difficulties you describe are spot on.

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  22. Jody, I love your idea of involving the whole family. Like it's a group goal!

    I accomplish most of my writing goals while my kids are at school, so that helps with the guilt factor. Now that it's summer, I'll still work a little in the morning, then reserve the later hours for family. But it's definitely a balancing act.

    My kids do tease me about being tethered to my laptop. And my husband and son went to a gun show and I rolled my eyes like "how boring" and they launched a funny conversation about how boring writing is. So having fun with it also helps.

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  23. This is such a good post, Jody. My family understands that this is my job. A job means I have to put hours in. They also know I love my job, so that helps a lot!

    Once a year I go over my annual business plan with my husband. I also keep him up-to-date on my current book and any new developments with speaking and building my platform.

    My family is super supportive, but I think it's because I, like you, include them in it.

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  24. Thanks for the pointers! My husband and daughter are very supportive of what I've chosen to do. My daughter even likes to take time and do her own writing. I think it's helped her in school and has pushed her to read more books and write more in her journal. I'm glad that I can be an educational prompt in helping her achieve her scholastic goals.

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  25. It's a constant balancing of the scales for me--they tip this way and that way. Too focused on writing. Then I'm neglecting writing because life is all about family . . . sigh.
    I'm learning this is reality, not something to fight.
    I do joke that I need to get a T-shirt with this message printed on the back: "If you can read this, I can't hear you. I'm too busy writing." I can't tell you the number of conversations I've missed because my kids or my husband talked to the back of my head while I typed away at the computer!

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  26. Aww, that's so great that your family is involved in what you do. My family is very supportive of me, but I still think they get jealous of all of the time I spend with my manuscript. Sometimes they'll say "You spend too much time in your room on that computer." Like I'm just hiding away from the world for fun instead of working hard all day. (Not that writing and editing isn't fun.) Great post.

    <3 Gina Blechman

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  27. Excellent, Excellent post. Thank you so much for the encouragement and logic :)!

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  28. This is a lovely post! My husband is becoming more supportive as time goes on - he had his fingers burned having a writer brother who had his head lost in a book the whole time, but he understands now just how important it is to me. My daughter is three, so I've got used to writing in front of Disney's Hercules. I really agree with your point though, about making sure you schedule in family time. If my husband and daughter are getting lots of good quality attention, they don't resent the time I devote to other things - and I don't feel guilty! It has to work for everyone.

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  29. You hit the nail on the head. I often feel guilty taking time to write because I'm not making a dime. Thank you for validating that I can write just because it's my passion. I hadn't really thought of it that way before. That really takes some of the pressure of. Thanks, Jody!

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  30. I'm still working on finding the balance for my writing within my family life. It is easy to feel guilty for closing myself away to write. I feel selfish for removing myself, as though this writing gig could be a real job. Then the Lord reminds me once more (through my dear hubby, sweet friends, or great blogs like this one) that this IS a real job, that He has set my heart on and I must take it seriously, whether He has publishing in mind for me or not!

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  31. I hit a rough spot with this recently, Jody, and I realized it was because I never communicated exactly WHY I write...the calling. Having an open discussion helped open the doors for understanding.

    Great post as always! :)

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  32. I just responded to your post aloud: "My family doesn't have a choice!" My 15-yr-old muttered, "Isn't that the truth," in that peculiar tone of voice that only 15-yr-old girls can manage. She's grinning at me now.

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  33. What a beautiful family you have! We're so blessed when our families understand our passion for writing. My oldest daughter is a writer, too, so I often share my frustrations and successes with her. All my family is supportive of my goals, although I don't think most of them understand the time and degree of persistence it's taking to reach them.

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  34. Thank you for the advice, Jody. I'm going to use it now and for future reference. My husband is very supportive and happy that I've found my calling, but we know that when we have children, some adjustments will have to be made. Such as an actual schedule, lol! Right now I write whenever I get the time.

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  35. Wonderful guidelines to make the writing a family affair. I'm lucky to have two kids who also love to write. They appreciate and respect the time I put into it, and now that they are nearly grown they have become great beta readers.

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  36. I just released my first e-book last week (The Husband's Guide to Getting Lucky). The cool thing is that all the proceeds are going toward our family's trip to Cambodia in December. So in the past two weeks, as I was frantically writing and gearing up for the launch, all I had to say was, "This is going to get us to Cambodia, remember?" :)

    And my husband is SUPER supportive. Without him there would BE no e-book or website or ANYTHING.

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  37. I'm not a Stephen King sort, but I enjoyed his memoir, On Writing. He wrote about the immense support his wife has always been in his career then shares that he always smiles (and counts the author fortunate) when he sees a book dedicated to a spouse.

    I wouldn't have bothered to finish my manuscript without my husband's cheering/encouraging/hounding...and my 11-month-old daughter's tremendous napping abilities!

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  38. Jody, your children look wonderful. Do they enjoy dressing up the same?
    I think showing your children the importance and value of following your passion (even if you don't get published or earn heaps of money from writing) is a good lesson for them!

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  39. With my child in college now, I treat my writing like a full-time job--all day, five days a week. Not published in novels yet, so yes, I do have the guilt. But I'm seeing some gains and so is my family. Sometimes, I think they're more on pins and needles waiting for that first book than I am! My husband doesn't get the social networking thing at all, though. He thinks that's more like play time.

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  40. My family knows that from 9 AM til noon and all I can fit into the afternoon, I'm working. That means I'm writing. My friends know that if they text me, I won't answer til the afternoon. I've set up guidelines and insisted that others respect them. This is my job. We don't call our friends at work.

    Since my family has helped me by allowing me to roll with my sometimes weird schedule, (staying up late / sleeping in) I've been able to write one book ahead of schedule; one book is being edited while the next one is a few chapters from being completed.

    My main problem seems to be my blog. I WANT to post twice a week, but I get so involved with my actual writing that I forget to log in to my twitter account and forget to blog.

    Please tell me, someone, that I'm not the only one out there with that problem!

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  41. Jody, I have been following your blog for a couple weeks...
    I wanted to comment many times but somehow felt weird because we weren't friends or whatever. Then I was determined to respond when you did the one asking us why we don't respond- my response was I want to... I'm too shy.
    However I am not shy, for real. I guess I just figured you probably wouldn't care if I respond. So... why am I responding now? I don't know.
    I really enjoy your blog and I feel like we are friends because of it. I came across you because of a girl in our homeschool group- Amanda Barratt. I read the interview you did on her blog. So, then I ordered The Preachers Bride and I loved it. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. I love Francine Rivers because of the way she makes you imagine stories in the Bible like Rahab for instance. She helps you live and breathe the story instead of just reading over it. I loved Your book. And then when I realized that it was inspired by the life of John Bunyan I loved it even more!
    I guess the biggest reason I haven’t responded is because I am a wanna-be author. I have written my first novel, and started on the second. I don’t want to talk to you only because you are an author and I want to be published. I want to talk to you because I like you and your book and your blog. I have learned so much from your posts for writers and it is so nice of you to spend your valuable time helping other new authors, through your experiences. Thank you for your encouragement – you might not have known it was meant for me but God has used you to bless me so many times.
    Blessings to you and your family,
    Dawn

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  42. Collen, My children don't particularly like when I coordinate their clothes! So I rarely do it anymore! But that particular picture was for Easter. So I could get away with it! :-)

    Robyn, I think it would help to have your blog scheduled out ahead of time. I know that helps for me. I write mine the week before, schedule them over the weekend, and then they post automatically during the week. So no matter how busy I get, the post still goes live.

    And Dawn! Thank you for commenting!! It was really great to hear from you and get your perspective on how you came upon my book (through Amanda's blog), and blog, and everything! I'm really touched that my blog has been a blessing to you! I can relate with where you're at and what you're feeling because it wasn't all that long ago that I was still unpublished! With enough perseverance and endurance, I'm sure you'll cross the publishing milestone. What I'm learning is that publication is just one milestone among many on the journey. I hope you'll find joy in each step!

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  43. Wow, what an amazingly comforting post! I always feel so guilty when my kids comment on Mommy "on the computer again." Now that I have an agent I can justify it more. Truly, great post. And, hey--I have five kids, too! :)

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  44. Hi Kara, Glad the post resonated! And having 5 kids is great, isn't it?! :-) I've been referring to my writing more and more lately as "my work." I think it helps for my kids to see that I'm "working" similar to their friends whose moms go to work. Only I'm working at home.

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  45. I think my family looks at my writing/proofreading/editing as a hobby. As I write this, I can clearly imagine how their eyes start to glaze as I talk about a short story that's been published, a new client I've signed, or a blog post that has received a lot of attention. Of all my family, only my son is signed up for my blog, and I had to threaten him! :) The best support I get is from other writers (most I've never even met in person) and from online writers groups (again, people I've never met).

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